Taxi-hailing apps such as Didi Dache or Uber have drawn a lot of buzz in recent times, but the big story in the industry is now something else: internet of cars.
Technology giants Apple, Google, Intel, Tesla, Baidu and Tencent are all developing their own products to compete in this field. Nokia, the fallen mobile phone titan, also joined the party recently, saying it will invest US$100 million in developing a connected car system.
“Vehicles are becoming a new platform for technology adoption very similar to phones or tablets,” said Paul Asel, managing partner of Nokia Growth Partners, an investment arm of the Finnish firm.
Nokia is a far smaller company after selling its phone business to Microsoft. The group’s mainstream revenues now come from networking, mapping and location services. At the centre of its connected car platform is Here Auto, an in-dash infotainment system with Nokia’s navigation and mapping technology.
Of course, Nokia is not the only one. Chinese search engine behemoth Baidu has rolled out its smart car product CarNet in April. In this product, navigation service is just a basic thing; drivers can now search things through the internet through voice control while driving a car, get information on things such as travel routes, restaurants, gas stations, etc. Alibaba is reportedly working on similar projects.
Rival Tencent launched this month an application called Lu Bao that can connect to an automobile’s onboard diagnostics system. The new product not only provides the driver with a navigation function, it can also monitor the car’s battery status and emissions while relaying traffic situation updates.
Certainly, more and more driver-friendly features are being added to vehicles nowadays. Carmakers are introducing smarter dashboard navigation systems, providing functions like real-time traffic information and automated calls to emergency services in case of accident. Toyota Motor said last October that it will, in about two years, introduce systems that will enable cars to communicate with each other to avoid collisions.
Driver-less cars could be the ultimate destination of all these new technologies.
In fact, Google’s self-driving car technology has already made a lot of progress in the past year. Its driver-less car team is now testing the cars in California. The team said the cars can handle thousands of urban situations; the goal is to get the technology to the public by 2017.
According to Google, there will be 6.6 billion internet of things by year 2015, in which 62 million connected things will be cars. Auto will become the third largest category of those connected things, following closely behind computers and mobile devices.
Although internet of cars is still in an infancy stage, it is developing at full speed and is turning the car sector from a traditional industry into one of the hottest areas in the tech world.
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